Basecamp: A Cautionary Tale in Company Culture

Peter Christian Fraedrich
3 min readMay 3, 2021
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Sometimes I really hate being right. Less than two weeks ago I published an article called “Culture Doesn’t Matter”, in which I outlined a very simple idea: that company culture doesn’t matter unless its actively lived by the leadership. Then just a few days later, Basecamp-gate happens.

For those of you who don’t already know what happened at Basecamp, my colleague John Breen summed it up pretty succinctly on his own blog:

A few days ago, Basecamp, a tech darling helmed by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, announced some policy changes. These changes effectively ban Basecamp employees from “societal and political discussions” at work. Unsurprisingly, these changes received quite a bit of attention on Twitter and throughout the tech industry. Shortly thereafer [sic], Casey Newton reported in The Verge about the underlying issues that prompted the policy changes. [1]

Through the back and forth on Twitter, various blog posts, and even media outlets like The Verge, new details are revealed about how the company was being led, the kinds of activities that went on behind closed doors, and the true attitudes the founders of Basecamp hold. But rather than do a re-hash of what’s already been said I want to look at Basecamp’s company culture and see how what they say lines up with what they do, because the two are very very different.

If you go to Basecamp’s About Us page you’ll see the following:

Treating people right is fundamental to how we do business…Our goals have always been the same: Have fun, do exceptional work, build the best product in the business, experiment, pay attention to the details, treat people right, tell the truth, have a positive impact on the world around us, give back, and keep learning.

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Peter Christian Fraedrich

Entrepreneur, software developer, writer, musician, amateur luthier, husband, dad. All opinions are my own.